TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It was business as usual at the University of Alabama football complex during Wednesday’s national signing day, which was just the way the Crimson Tide wanted it.
Like usual, Saban downplayed the mythical title.
“Until it's all said and done, until these guys all grow and develop, you really don't know what kind of class you have,” he said. “It's everybody's guesstimate at this point as to what kind of class we really have.
“We're excited about them. We're pleased with them. But you know, you can't make predictions about these type of things.”
Nevertheless, the Crimson Tide's latest recruiting class was rated comparably to some of the ones that helped lead to four national championships in seven seasons. While Alabama still has an open slot and signed fewer players than in recent years, the average class grade on a 100-point scale—again, using 247Sports' composite—was 92.85.
That’s the fourth best of Saban’s recruiting classes at Alabama.
|Ranking Alabama’s Recruiting Classes|
|Compiled by 247Sports|
Although it had numerous true freshmen play during the 2015 season, including standout wide receiver Calvin Ridley, the Crimson Tide will be looking to two players in particular from the signing class to contribute immediately—the junior college transfers.
With Dominick Jackson’s eligibility having expired, the Alabama has an opening at right tackle and no obvious replacement.
“Charles Baldwin was probably at least the best junior college offensive tackle-type that we could find, which we thought we were a little short in tackle-types, especially guys that had experience,” Saban said. “We recruit junior college guys because we think he's going to be good enough to play, because they need to play. So then we need for him to play.”
Among those Baldwin could compete with in the spring include 5-star addition Jonah Williams, reserve Korren Kirven and Ross Pierschbacher if a suitable replacement steps up at left guard.
The other junior college addition is defensive lineman Jamar King, who didn’t land his scholarship offer until late December and was a late commitment. Ohio State also made a late run at him.
Steal of the signing class?
One of the more interesting additions to Alabama’s signing class was Joshua Jacobs, a running back from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who was largely overlooked for a variety of reasons and received his offer late in the recruiting process.
Part of that had to do with playing in just six games his junior year at McLain High due to an injury. As a senior, though, he averaged 15.1 yards per carry and 245.8 yards per game en route to 2,704 rushing yards on 179 carries with 31 rushing touchdowns.
Wanting to add another running back in addition to B.J. Emmons, who rated second in the nation at that position, Alabama didn’t latch on to him until after the national championship game and dispatched running backs coach Burton Burns to check him out and call back.
“We thought something was wrong with the guy, maybe he’s too small or whatever, and he said ‘No, this is a pretty good looking guy and I watched him practice basketball and he’s very athletic and very explosive,’” Saban said. “I said ‘Well there’s got to be something wrong with the guy.’”
Now Alabama thinks it might have gotten a recruiting steal.
In addition to his national championship, Saban claimed another state recruiting title after landing the only two 5-star prospects, linebackers Ben Davis and Lyndell Wilson, and four of the top five players according to 247Sports.
Overall, since 2008 the state has had 16 players rated as a 5-star prospects, with Saban having signed 12 of them. Two went to Florida State in 2012, and two landed at Auburn in 2014. That’s the equivalent to a .750 batting average.
"We weren't worried about perspective,” Saban said. “We like getting good players who can go out on the field and play good. Perception doesn't win any games for us around here, but good players do. We thought they were outstanding players.”
Consequently, they figure to be among the first of the new defensive players to see playing time in 2016.
“The goal for us is to teach those guys as much as we can as soon as we can because this is a position where we’ve had lots of guys in the past contribute as freshmen,” he said. “Rolando McClain did, Dont'a Hightower did, C.J. Mosley did, I think Nico Johnson did.
“We didn't have a lot of depth at that position this year so I think how quickly these guys can learn and grow and develop at that position is important because I think they both have the kind of athletic ability and critical factors at that position that we're looking for."
The process never stops
Among the playmakers, those with the best chance of contributing in 2016 are the running backs. With Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake heading to the NFL, they left behind a talented group topped by sophomores Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough, but with very little experience.
Consequently, Saban is leaving the door open for a possible graduate transfer or recruit to still join the 2016 team.
“It seems with these graduate transfers, just looking at the history of it, there seems like there are more skill guys, receivers, running backs that do that type of thing,” he said. “So we'll probably be on the lookout for the next best player we can find, whether it's somebody that didn't sign on signing day or someone who is out there looking for an opportunity."
Yes, that was Saban demonstrating why he was the six-time reigning recruiting champion, by working a recruiting angle during his press conference at the end of national signing day.
Here’s a full look at Alabama’s 2016 signing class:
|Alabama's 2016 Signing Class|
|Name||Position||Height||Weight||Hometown (High School)||Stars (Rank)|
|Ben Davis||ILB||6'4"||240||Gordo, Alabama (Gordo)||5 (10)|
|Lyndell Wilson||OLB||6'2"||240||Montgomery, Alabama (Carver)||5 (15)|
|Jonah Williams||OT||6'5"||290||Folsom, California (Folsom)||5 (17)|
|B.J. Emmons||RB||6'0"||220||Morganton, North Carolina (Freedom)||4 (35)|
|Nigel Knott||CB||5'11"||180||Madison, Mississippi (Germantown)||4 (62)|
|Terrell Hall||LB||6'5"||245||Washington, D.C. (St. John's)||4 (64)|
|Shyheim Carter||CB||6'0"||190||Kentwood, Louisiana (Kentwood)||4 (71)|
|Raekwon Davis||DT||6'7"||325||Meridian, Mississippi (Meridian)||4 (83)|
|Charles Baldwin||OT||6'5"||300||Windsor, Connecticut (Windsor/ASA College)||4 (2 JC)|
|Kendell Jones||DT||6'5"||350||Killeen, Texas (Shoemaker)||4 (93)|
|Trevon Diggs||WR||6'0"||183||Gaithersburg, Maryland (Avalon School)||4 (113)|
|Jared Mayden||CB||6'0"||198||Sachse, Texas (Sachse)||4 (147)|
|Quinnen Williams||DT||6'4"||265||Birmingham, Alabama (Wenonah)||4 (159)|
|Deonte Brown||OG||6'4"||350||Decatur, Alabama (Austin)||4 (175)|
|Jalen Hurts||QB||6'2"||205||Channelview, Texas (Channelview)||4 (176)|
|Chris Owens||OG||6'3"||315||Arlington, Texas (Lamar)||4 (177)|
|Scott Lashley||OT||6'7"||325||West Point, Mississippi (West Point)||4 (192)|
|Miller Forristall||TE||6'5"||220||Cartersville, Georgia (Cartersville)||3 (379)|
|Joshua Jacobs||RB||5'10"||200||Tulsa, Oklahoma (McLain)||3 (460)|
|T.J. Simmons||WR||6'2"||195||Pinson, Alabama (Clay-Chalkville)||3 (469)|
|Jamar King||DE||6'4"||290||Detroit, Michigan (Denby/Mendocino CC)||3 (51 JC)|
|Irvin Smith||TE||6'4"||234||New Orleans, Louisiana (Brother Martin)||3 (527)|
|Shawn Jennings||LB||6'1"||220||Dadeville, Alabama (Dadeville)||3 (595)|
|Aaron Robinson||CB||6'1"||185||Deerfield Beach, Florida (Deerfield Beach)||3 (646)|
|247Sports/The University of Alabama|
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information comes courtesy of 247Sports.
Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.